The process that I use to try to get that first job was to take a rolls of drawings and my portfolio and just go door to door asking if they needed anyone. I am pretty sure they all thought that recent graduates couldn’t offer much to the firm and were not interested in your “design” abilities. Very few showed any interest in my drawings and even less in my portfolio. They all took my resume and “put it on file”, but I don’t think I ever got any call backs from that process. It seemed to me that if they needed a draftsman at that time and they thought you could draw they would talk to you about employment on the spot. That is what happen to me. As stated in my last post, I had an “inside” person who got my foot in the door. Once I came in for the interview I had a brief discussion and was hired on the spot. They needed a draftsperson and apparently after talking to me the boss, who was a civil engineer not an architect, thought I could do it.
I had attempted to get a job with an architectural firm in Blacksburg when I was at Virginia Tech, but that never quite worked out. Again because we had moved to Roanoke, Va, which is about a 45 minute drive from Blacksburg, my dad called on the architectural firms in Blacksburg. So I may not have had a definite in with any firms, I did have a familiarity with them. My spring quarter I was told I could have a job with one of the local firms over the summer, but two weeks before the quarter ended I was informed they could not offer me a job. That wasn’t a good situation as most of the job opportunities in a small town had already been taken by other students. It worked out well as I got a job in construction, which I think all architectural student should be required to do before graduating.
So back to my interview for my first job. After a brief discussion I was told I was hired. When I was asked how much I wanted to make and I asked for a $10,000, which according to Google is the equivalent to $36,000 in today’s money. I was told that was to high and given a dollar per /hour number which worked out to about $9,800. The boss got up told me to start the following Monday and then left the room, I guess he thought the meeting was over. I had to ask in a loud voice as he walked down the hall, “What time do you start?” to which he replied “8:30”. Then I said “What do I wear?” to which he responded “What you have on is fine”. I was wearing a three piece suit. So I showed up that next Monday and sit directly behind a guy wearing blue jeans and a rolled up tee shirt. My first thought was “I think I am over dressed!” and I never wore a suit to the office again.
Having no experience in an architectural office I was very apprehensive about what exactly I was suppose to do. Someone finally brought over a set of marked up blueprints and told me to start making the corrections. Fortunately I had enough common sense to looks at the blue prints and think “Surely they can’t want me to erase these prints and make the changes on them?”, but I just didn’t know? So I got up and asked was I missing something and to which they said “Oh yea, the originals are in the file drawer”. My first opportunity to look like a rookie averted. I lasted at that first job about 10 months. I am pretty sure I pissed off one of the principals, because two weeks prior to letting me go due to “lack of work” they had hired two new architects. I may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I was smart enough to understand that my release had nothing to do with work load. I was a great experience. It was an office of about 12 people and an A/E firm, so I got to draw all disciplines which I think helped me understand the big picture at the beginning of my career.
One memorable moment came from the engineer that was good friends with my dad and had helped me get the interview. He was the only PME engineer in the firm and I was doing some drafting for him. After working on the drawings for about an hour he came over and told me I was doing it wrong. I told him that I was doing what he had asked me to do to which he responded “Don’t do what I say, Do what I think”. I really didn’t have much of a come back for that and I have never forgotten it. As a matter of fact, I have used it several times myself.